Immigrants in Nebraska

October 6, 2015

Nebraska has a small but growing immigrant population. About 7 percent of the state’s population was born in another country, and foreign-born residents help support Nebraska’s economy across sectors. Immigrants are a critical component of the Nebraskan labor force: 17 percent of the state’s computer and math science professionals are immigrants, as are 18 percent of Nebraskans working in the production industry. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Nebraska’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Nearly 7 percent of Nebraska residents are immigrants, while nearly 6 percent are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 128,390 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 6.8 percent of the state’s population in 2015.
  • Nebraska was home to 56,293 women, 60,756 men, and 11,341 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (35.5 percent of immigrants), India (6.2 percent), China (4.5 percent), Guatemala (4.4 percent), and El Salvador (3 percent).
  • In 2016, 107,599 people in Nebraska (5.8 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

More than a third of all immigrants in Nebraska are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 48,394 immigrants (37.7 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 23,269 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • More than two-thirds of immigrants (68.1 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Nebraska are distributed across the educational spectrum.

  • More than one-fifth of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while two-fifths had less than a high school diploma. 

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

22.4

30.9

Some college

15.2

35.6

High school diploma only

22.4

27.3

Less than a high-school diploma

40.0

6.2

More than 30,000 U.S. citizens in Nebraska live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 45,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 38 percent of the immigrant population and 2.5 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • 64,815 people in Nebraska, including 27,931 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 1 in 20 children in the state was a U.S.-citizen child living with at least one undocumented family member (25,154 children in total).

More than 3,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Nebraska.

  • As of 2016, 91 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Nebraska, or 3,759 people, had applied for DACA.
  • Up to 2,000 additional residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and up to 2,000 others would be additionally eligible as they grew older.

Nearly one in eight Nebraska workers is an immigrant, together making up a vital part of the state’s labor force.

  • 80,474 immigrant workers comprised 7.9 percent of the labor force in 2015. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

17,898

Construction

9,930

Health Care and Social Assistance

7,953

Accommodation and Food Services

7,749

Educational Services

7,579

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)(of all industry workers)

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

15.1

Manufacturing

14.9

Construction

11.7

Accommodation and Food Services

10.3

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

9.5

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

Immigrants are an integral part of the Nebraska workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2015, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Production

13,223

Construction and Extraction

9,153

Food Preparation and Serving Related

7,819

Office and Administrative Support

7,724

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

6,514

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all workers in occupation)

Production

18.0

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

17.1

Construction and Extraction

14.3

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

13.6

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

12.0

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 3.2 percent of the state’s workforce in 2014.

Immigrants in Nebraska have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add over a billion dollars to Nebraska’s economy.

  • Nebraskans in immigrant-led households had $1.9 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in Nebraska generate tens of millions of dollars in business revenue.

  • 3,657 immigrant business owners accounted for 3.5 percent of all self-employed Nebraska residents in 2015 and generated $65.5 million in business income.

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